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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

334                  MODERN   GERMAN  LITERATURE

has in her feverish style something of the expressionist manner.
In her early novels critics detected the influence of Hermann Bang
and Thomas Mann; in her later work she has developed her own
manner. She has the light touch of a born story-teller; she does
not build sentences, but lets her quick, lively periods fall into a
natural sequence and caps them, often, with a sad illuminative
climax; and if she has any poetry it is in the feeling she glosses
over with her cynically realistic conversational tone rather than in
any literary phrasing. She has her own technique, too; for instance, in
Das grosse Einmaleins (1935) she will show the man's state of mind
during a crisis of the action, and then literally repeat it to show
the woman's far more intense feeling from moment to moment.
In Menschen im Hotel (1929) she came near to devising a new film-
like way of narration: she presents a metropolitan hotel, with the
swing doors and the great hall as a kind of open sesame > as an atom-
like conglomeration: a miniature but complete replica of the world
as a totality, pulsing with pain and passion in its interrelated types.
She had written considerably before, but with this burst of talent
she conquered her world, helped by the insight of critics who at
once detected in the pathetic figure of the dancer on the threshold
of her decline a picture of that darling of capitals, Pavlova. The
excellent thing in Menschen im Hotel is the intimate rendering of
the irradiation of life from a nucleus; in Zmschenfall in Lj>hmnckel
(1930) the gathering-point is a small German town, whose de-
tached intimacies are set fluttering by the old romantic device of
an accident to travellers. It is this intimate rendering of German
life, seen with a Jewish keenness of eye, which makes Vicki Baum's
American tales, by contrast, so artificial, though allowance must
be made for expressionistic distortion. The pity is that so German
a writer should have been transplanted by the exigencies of 1933
to the United States, where she was naturalized. L,eben ohne Geheim-
nis (1933) attempts an unravelling of the mysteries of Hollywood,
but actually pictures only what is known. To film-goers of course
there must be a thrill in detecting the originals of these wixworky
characters. From the view-point of literary continuity Vicki Baum's
most interesting tale may well be Stud. Chem. Helene Willfuer (1929);
academic readers it will attract or repel by its description of alleged
student life in Heidelberg and Munich. It carries the theme of
Helene Bohlau's Das TLecht der Mutter a stage further: the heroine
gives herself to her boy, not because she has a thrill of desire, but